Akron picks up some impressive scalps
If there were any doubts that New Mexico has college soccer's top team, they were quashed last weekend when the Lobos won two tough road games to improve their perfect record to 8-0.
First, it was a 2-0 win over Southern Methodist. Even in an off year, SMU is tough to beat and you can bet that Mustangs coach Schellas Hyndman wanted to put the clamps on Jeremy Fishbein's streaking side. Well, they held New Mexico's super senior Jeff Rowland scoreless, but the Lobos prevailed thanks to freshman midfielder Chris Wright's goals on either side of halftime.
That the Lobos don't need to rely on Rowland for all its scoring is a good sign for Lobo fans. Defender Andrew Boyens notched the OT winner against Tulsa after Rowland¹s 8th tally of '05, proving that others can step up when Rowland is locked down. That bodes well for them down the stretch and in the tourney. And, if Fishbein's men hold their form, (and if a D led by Boyens and senior Ben Ashwill continues to hold the fort) there is no way NCAA selectors can repeat last year's travesty and underrate them again come November.
Speaking of 8-0 teams, Akron has stormed into the national rankings with its unblemished start. The Zips are fourth in the latest NSCAA/adidas poll and have taken over the No. 1 spot in the Great Lakes Region, ahead of Indiana. True, the Mid-American Conference isn't exactly the ACC, but Akron has picked up some impressive scalps so far (SMU, Maryland). And, that eight-and-oh does look oh-so-good. Time will tell if they're for real or not.
And speaking of Ohio, OSU pulled off a shock result last week when they toppled UCLA. We hope the Buckeyes didn't begin to believe their own press (Soccer America had them at 13th after the win), because another Ohio team, Bowling Green, gave the Columbus crew a reality check with a thrilling 3-2 overtime victory the Falcons first win in nearly two years.
What¹s going on in College Park? Maryland is 6-3 after beating William & Mary 1-0 on Tuesday night, but that was after back to back 1-0 losses to Penn State and N.C. State. More worrisome for Terrapins coach Sasho Cirovski was the fact that his team couldn't break through after falling behind in the opening moments each time. The Terps need to find goals from sources other than Hermann hopeful Jason Garey, who became the school's all-time leading goal scorer (passing FC Dallas striker Abe Thompson) with Tuesday's tally.
September 23-25 could've been called the weekend of the 0-0 result. First, it was Friday's nationally televised Big East classico between Connecticut and St. John's. The Huskies were looking to get back on track after dropping their first two conference games to newcomers Cincinnati and Louisville.
Despite holding the Red Storm to one shot on frame, UConn couldn't manage to get the 5,271 fans packed into Storrs' Morrone Stadium out of their seats and into a frenzy against their biggest rivals, and the Johnnies tied Providence 0-0 in their next match. Finally, Indiana and Michigan State finished scoreless, but that was due more to a waterlogged field and the eight stops Spartans' keeper Jason Tillman made than to any attacking ineptitude by the Hoosiers.
Teams on cruise control right now include California, Duke and North Carolina. The Golden Bears (7-0-1) are being dubbed Tournament Titans after their fourth title in as many weeks. Can't hurt when the tourney that matters comes around, can it? Cal travels to Tinseltown to open Pac-10 play vs. UCLA on Sept. 30th.
The Tar Heels remained undefeated (also 7-0-1) with consecutive 1-0 wins over Clemson and a UNC Greensboro squad starting to find its feet. UNC freshman Scott Campbell was the Heels' hero with a pair of game winners. Eleven miles away from Chapel Hill in Durham, N.C., Blake Camp and Chris Loftus are leading the way for 6-1-1 Duke. But it gets tougher for the Blue Devils in the coming weeks they face Boston College and Maryland in their next two matches.
The surprise of the BIG EAST is conference newbie Cincinnati. The Bearcats sit atop the Red Division in the newly split and expanded conference with a 4-0-1 mark. Hylton Dayes' team has even caught the attention of Soccer America, which has Cincy ranked #15.
UCSB had its five game unbeaten run snapped in controversial fashion with a 2-1 setback to Loyola Marymount. The California rivals engaged in a heated affair (58 fouls were called) and tempers ran even higher at game's end when UCSB's apparent equalizer was disallowed by the referee -- although replays later showed that the ball had crossed the goal line before time expired. Still, you have to admire the fight in Santa Barbara's young side. They¹ll look to rebound when they take on Cal Poly next week.
Still Undefeated: The jinx is in. After getting their due in this section a week ago, Creighton and Virginia both suffered their first defeats of '05. Overachievers Missouri State (6-0-2), San Diego (4-0-2) and Fairleigh Dickinson (6-0-1) will try to avoid a similar letdown, as will New Mexico, UNC, Akron, Cal and Indiana.
Tube Time: Lets hope somebody scores this time in Fox Soccer Channel's game of the week. (Fridays, 8 p.m. ET if you don't know by now) Indiana doesn't just want to stay unbeaten, they want a W in front of a national audience and their own die-hards at Armstrong Stadium as they try climb back up the national rankings against Big Ten foe Penn State. Looking ahead, there's a huge ACC matchup on tap the following Friday when Duke hosts Maryland.
Doug McIntyre is a soccer columnist for ESPN The Magazine and ESPNsoccernet.